After intense negotiations that her new manager warned recently could result in her exit from the show, Paula Abdul tweeted on Tuesday night that she is leaving "Idol."
"With sadness in my heart, I've decided not to return to 'Idol,'" wrote Abdul, 47. "I'll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day one become an international phenomenon. What I want to say most, is how much I appreciate the undying support and enormous love that you have showered upon me. I do, without any doubt, have the BEST fans in the entire world and I love you all."
"Paula Abdul has been an important part of the 'American Idol' family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show," Fox TV said in a statement. "While Paula will not be continuing with us, she's a tremendous talent and we wish her the best." (Read MTV News "American Idol" expert Jim Cantiello's reaction to Paula's departure in the Newsroom.)
Abdul did not explain why she is leaving the show two days before rehearsals for season nine were set to begin, and a spokesperson for the one-time pop singer and choreographer could not be reached for comment at press time. Auditions are slated to take place in Denver on Thursday, and taping for the upcoming season was to begin this week.
Abdul's announcement comes just days after it was announced that the show's newest judge, songwriter Kara DioGuardi, will be returning to "Idol" for a second season. In announcing the return of DioGuardi — whose debut season was a bit rough at times due to tension with fellow judge Simon Cowell — Fox and the show's producers heaped praise on the songwriter to the stars (Britney Spears, Demi Lovato), calling her "a breath of fresh air."
Cowell and judge Randy Jackson are onboard for this season, and host Ryan Seacrest recently signed a $45 million deal to return as well, but the loss of Abdul breaks up the show's original cast and could prove divisive for an audience that has come to expect her often loopy, hard-to-follow comments.
Seacrest weighed in shortly after the news broke, tweeting, "About to go to sleep when I started seeing my BlackBerry blow up. I have read what u have read and I am shocked and saddened about Paula," he wrote. " 'Idol' and the cast have grown with each other over the last 8 seasons ... I can't imagine the panel without Paula. She's a star [and] a great friend ... Spoke to Randy ... hope to speak with Paula privately overnight."
The Los Angeles Times reported that Seacrest's new deal guarantees him $10 million a year starting in 2010 and that, according to unnamed sources close to the show, Abdul wanted a similar amount, a large increase over the reported $2-$4 million she was earning. The paper said executives were willing to go as high as $5 million a year for three years. A spokesperson for the show had no comment on those reports.
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